Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, 2015!

This is the time of year when lots of newspaper and magazine ink, TV airtime and Internet bits and pixels are spent on celebrating and mourning the best and worst of the year. These retrospectives are always full of international mischief, celebrity departures, political nonsense and, of course, technological breakthroughs like the explosion of devices to measure how much you walk and share it with the world. (Because we’ve become so data-centric, we naturally think more data is the answer to all life’s problems. Out of shape? No problem. Get a Fit-Wit!)

But you know what? Screw it! Personally, 2014 was one of the worst years of my life, in the same league as 2013 and 1978. It, frankly, sucked.

But, for another thing, years don’t exist. Not really. It’s just an approximation of how long it takes the earth to voyage around the sun, starting at a random point. In fact, the earth doesn’t even return to the same point, because the whole solar system is travelling through the galaxy. The frequency of energy cycles of the caesium-133 atom is much more reliable, and is the basis of atomic clocks. But somehow, saying “Happy New Caesium-133 Cycle!” just doesn’t sound as catchy. Besides, there are over 9 billion cycles per second, so you’d have to say it really fast.

So I’m wishing us all Happy New Caesium-133 Cycles, Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, Years and so on. Here’s hoping each new moment is better than the last, for some definition of “better.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Xmas 2014

At this tender time of year, when loved ones gather and say to each other “Whadja get me?”, it seems fitting to consider the traditions that underly this holiday. Christmas is, of course, a Christian holiday, but it follows the pattern of the Roman Saturnalia, and other early celebrations coinciding with the winter solstice. So almost everyone, regardless of beliefs, can find some excuse to celebrate.

In fact, even if you have no beliefs in any deities, religions or transcendent powers, you can marvel at the fact that humans were able to dream this stuff up. Seriously, the grandeur of many world religions, the magnificent music, the inspirational art and architecture … all of which were based on beliefs … is truly awesome.

The creation of the entire universe, and everyone and everything in it, was no more than a week’s work for an all-powerful supreme being, at least by some popular accounts. On the other hand, the slow development and refinement of human belief systems, over hundreds of generations and millenia, and the works inspired by these beliefs, are really exalted.

Of course, we don’t always act in accordance with those beliefs. We don't come close to our own or our creator's ideals of peace, mutual love or charity. But we’re capable of conceiving those ideals. Therein lies the hope.

Peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WTF: Is there a Santa Claus?

Today’s question, quite fitting for the season, comes to us from Virginia of … uh, Virginia, who asks

Question: Is there a Santa Claus?

Answer: Gee, that’s a toughie. Without going into all the semantics of what you mean by Santa Claus, etc., let’s see if we can nail this.

All the red suited guys in malls and department stores? They’re there to get you out shopping, so you can fork over your money.

The Santa Clauses in movies? Sure, they want to sell tickets (or DVDs or downloads or whatever.)

The Santa in the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Yup, you got it.

The ones on TV and in magazines? They’re trying to sell you Coca-Cola, so yup, money.

And the Santa of song and story? The one who knows if you’ve been bad or good? Well, that’s just creepy.

So yes, Virginia, there are lots of Santa Clauses. Better watch out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things That Suck

It’s the holiday season, so I’m sure you’re all busy being cheerful and stuff. However, we here at The Tech Curmudgeon feel it’s important to try to restore balance to the force. So we’ve decided to start a new tradition of publishing our Top N List of Things That Suck (TNLOTTS).

Unlike most end-of-the-year top ten lists, we don’t guarantee there will be ten items on the list. Also, they’re not in any particular order … not counting down to something or building up to something. It’s random. You might see “Spate of police and faux-police killings of young, unarmed black men with no consequences” as one item on the list, and the next item might be “Password savers that ask if they should remember the password before you even know if the password works.”

  1. The spate of police and faux-police killings of young, unarmed black men with no consequences.
  2. Password savers that ask if they should remember the password before you even know if the password works.
  3. Politicians (some of them literally)
  4. Internet email lists. (Whenever anyone asks about PCs, someone also chimes in with “You should get a Mac.” It’s like saying “What good shoes? Get a hat.”)
  5. PCs. (You really should get a Mac.)
I’m sorry. The news is just in that 145 schoolchildren and teachers were killed in a Taliban terror attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. I must defer to reality for coming up with things that suck far more than anything I could imagine.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Limerick of the Day #129

If you wish any turmoil to cease
You can count on your local police.
They can leave any rioter
Acting much quieter,
Sometimes even resting in peace.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Need for Speed

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman’s new book, How To Cook Everything Fast, is a runaway bestseller. Well, it’s a runaway pretty good seller. It will undoubtedly reach the bestseller lists once it … um, sells better.

In any case, it’s certainly attracting a lot of attention. So the most obvious response should be to cash in on the book’s success by immediately releasing a sequel. Since Bittman is probably busy with book tours and TED talks and stuff, we are prepared to offer our own tome, …

How to Eat Everything Fast

This book is filled with time-saving tips like:

  1. Eat greasy foods for faster digestion.
  2. Practice stretching the jaw and throat muscles to increase capacity.
  3. A food processor or juicer can turn almost any meal into a quick beverage.
  4. When traveling, carry implements that allow you to slice, dice and otherwise reduce your meals to kibble.
  5. Lobster, artichokes, pomegranate, and chestnuts are really not worth it.
and many more.

I should say this book will be filled with time-saving tips. There’s nothing actually written yet. Nonetheless, we will be happy to accept $25 deposits to reserve your copy. It’s sure to go fast!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WTF

Since we started the almost weekly WTF feature, in which we provide unhelpful answers to questions submitted by you, the letters have been pouring in. Some of them even form words and sentences.

But very few have been interrogatives. So this week’s question, from Peter in Massachusetts, is …

Question: Why aren’t more of you asking questions?

Answer: t.b.s.


Monday, December 1, 2014